Can I Still Get COPD & Emphysema as a Non-Smoker?

COPD as a non-smoker

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, more commonly known as COPD, is a disease that makes breathing more difficult as time passes. Symptoms are constant coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. Emphysema is another name for this long-term disease that affects about 11 million people in the United States. 

What are causes of COPD?

The most common cause of COPD is smoking. In fact, over 80 percent of COPD patients suffer because of their smoking habits. The chemicals in cigarettes ruin the defense system in your lungs and can weaken and narrow the airways causing the symptoms listed before. 

Are Non-Smokers Safe from COPD?

Although smoking is the number one cause to this disease, it is not the only one. Non-smokers can suffer, too. It is not as likely, but it is possible and new non-smoking patients are added to the 11 million existing COPD sufferers every day.

What causes COPD if you're not a smoker?

  • The environment - The environment is one reason for non-smokers getting COPD. Though these patients are not purposefully inhaling chemicals and toxins, they are breathing in everyday air that holds these things. Air pollution cannot be avoided in today’s world. Chemicals can enter a person’s body without them even knowing it. Over time, this is what can lead to the chest disease.
  •  Genetics - Genetics can also cause non-smokers to have COPD. There is only one genetic deficiency known right now that causes this disease. This inherited deficiency is called Alpha-1 antitrypsin and can lead to lung and liver disease. 
  • Asthma - Asthma that goes untreated for a long time can also be a reason a non-smoker gets diagnosed with COPD. Asthma is a respiratory condition that can weaken the system over time. Without treatment, asthma can lead to other internal issues, such as COPD. Effects of asthma are very similar to the symptoms of COPD and should be watched carefully. 

If a person is experiencing any breathing problems that are out of the ordinary and seem like the symptoms of COPD or an obvious decrease in lung health, they should consult a pulmonologist no matter their smoking history. COPD is serious and has led to many deaths. The sooner the diagnosis, the sooner treatments can be started.